Tubolight EVO Gravel tyre inserts are designed for the tyre sizes used by the vast majority of gravel riders, ranging from 37mm to 45mm. Much like its rivals, the inserts claim to protect against pinch flats and improve ride quality - but the Tubolight EVO is a step beyond competitors in key areas.
Tyre inserts have been increasing in popularity for several years. Initially used on downhill-orientated mountain bikes, they have now moved across all cycling disciplines, with several WorldTour road teams reputed to be using similar technology.
Tubolight EVO Gravel Tyre Inserts - Technical details
Tubolight produces four versions of inserts, with the EVO HD designed for wider mountain bike tyres, an EVO SL for cross-country purposes, the EVO Gravel tested here, and a road version for 28-32c tyres. One element they all share is incredibly low weight, with the EVO Gravel weighing 33 grams as claimed. Tubolight also produces valves, but there is no requirement to use them - standard tubeless valves will work. That said, should you choose to use the Tubolight valves they are priced at £10 each.
Previous experience attempting to use and install tyre inserts has, at times, been quite a challenging experience. The issue is usually a mix of a wide and tight design that leaves little room to fit a tyre bead inside the rim.
It was therefore something of a revelation to have the Tubolight EVO inserts fitted with little fuss. I managed to get the inserts and tyre in place almost completely without using a tyre lever, only needing to close the very final section and that was also painless.
The design and lower density of the insert is the main reason, as they can be stretched and compressed much easier than some other inserts. The downside of a lower density will be reduced protection in the event of rim strikes but, given the style and areas where a gravel bike will be ridden by the majority of people, I feel the amount of protection they provide is suited to the riding style.
Tubolight EVO Gravel Tyre Inserts - Performance
I had no issues using the inserts and the biggest benefit was a firmer sidewall, giving a more stable tyre through the corners, while also being able to lower tyres pressures to give more traction if required.
I did not suffer any punctures while riding, so I was not able to see how it coped in the event of a major puncture, but I did set up a test, dropping the tyres to approximately 10psi and riding a track I know well. The tyre stayed in place throughout, without losing additional air, and although I would not choose to ride at such a low pressure, this would be just a get-you-home method after a major puncture.
The feel and extra confidence the inserts provide are like the Rimpact inserts, despite a lower weight. Both designs are relatively easy to fit, with the Tubolight edging it in terms of ease, and both are significantly easier than Cushcore – one of the inserts that I simply gave up trying to fit.
You may think using an insert could make for a slower ride, and this isn’t something you would be able to test without lab equipment, but there has been some testing that showed a negligible difference between using a tyre with and without an insert. That test was also used down to 9psi a pressure where the tyre without an insert failed.
Tubolight EVO Gravel Tyre Inserts - Verdict
The inserts are £55 for a pair, making them considerably cheaper than the HD versions that Liam tested at £80. The Rimpact gravel-sized CX inserts have dropped in price since I tested them in late 2020, now just under £50. Vittoria produces the Air-Liner, and a pair will cost £74. Effetto Mariposa has the Tyreinvader costing £108 for the pair with both having a strip design that you have to size up, cut and secure in place. Claimed weight for the Vittoria Air-Liner is 47g per insert, and the Tyreinvader is a claimed 48g. A set of Cushcore gravel inserts will cost £160 and while this does include valves, it is still significantly more.
The Tubolight EVO Gravel inserts have really impressed me with how they can improve the feel and cornering ability of a typical gravel tyre. The density of the foam insert is well-matched to typical gravel riding, and the very low weight means the penalty is negligible. Although the price is competitive, they might seem expensive for a few loops of foam, yet the overall benefits make them an excellent purchase.